All Blacks face France in 'special' 2023 Rugby World Cup pool stages

Paris (AFP) –


New Zealand head coach Ian Foster said facing hosts France in a mouthwatering 2023 Rugby World Cup pool game will be "special", after Monday's draw in Paris.

The sides met in the 1987 and 2011 finals, with the All Blacks winning on both occasions.

"It's going to be very special. I have no doubt they will organise a superb World Cup," Foster told a press conference.

"We've watched with admiration the way they're re-building their team and are really building something special for 2023.

"For us to know the size of the challenge has given us a clear focus and one we can't wait for," he added.

England take on Japan, who hosted the last World Cup in 2019, and Argentina, who beat Foster's men for the first time in their history in November.

A qualifier each from Oceania and the Americas round out a competitive-looking Pool D.

"It's a great pool to be a part of," England captain Owen Farrell said.

"Obviously with the way that Japan and Argentina are going at the minute, some of the rugby that has been played over the last few years by them both, it's going to be a tough pool."

Champions South Africa will face Ireland as well as Scotland and a nation from Asia/Pacific and a further European nation in Pool B.

"It's exciting, really, to know who your RWC pool opponents will be," Springboks skipper Siya Kolisi said.

Wales, who lost to the Springboks in the 2019 semi-finals, are in Pool C with two-time Webb Ellis trophy holders Australia as well as Fiji, a European team and the winner of the final qualifying tournament.

Italy and two qualifiers, one from the Americas and another from Africa, make up the rest of Pool A alongside the All Blacks and the French.

- Concussion 'example' -

The draw was held days after a host of former internationals said they were planning legal action against the sport's authorities over the result of concussion.

The planned legal action targets World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union, for "failure to protect (the claimants) from the risks caused by concussions".

World Rugby vice-chairman Bernard Laporte said the global body was a leading example in the field across spors federations.

"We are a model union in terms of research, innovation and mastering this area," former France coach Laporte said in a press conference afterwards.

"A lot of other sports want to do like rugby with our Head Injury Assessment protocol. It's a major subject. The priority is the health and safety of our players."

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, seeding levels for the tournament draw were based on the world rankings on January 1, 2020 instead of after the autumn internationals as originally intended.

Organisers also moved the draw forward to be able to start selling tickets in March next year, before ticket sales for the 2024 Paris Olympics begin in 2022.

Fixtures are set to be announced by the end of next March.

The dozen countries from the draw will be joined by eight qualifiers, with the final lineup known by November 2022.